A few months ago, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican, discussed his love for rap music extensively in an interview with GQ magazine. Eyebrows were raised: The genre is not typically seen as one that appeals to conservatives, in particular social conservatives.
Conservative columnist Mark Steyn put it as follows in a recent podcast: “I think there’s an absence of human feeling in these songs. It’s not just that they’re explicit. When you talk to social conservatives, they get upset because there’s all these bad words in there. It’s beyond that, actually.”
Many rappers, at the same time, openly express their support for liberal politicians and policies: From Jay-Z and his wife Beyoncé raising money for President Obama, to Young Jeezy singing his praises in “My President”:
My president is black, my Lambo’s blue
And I’ll be godd***** if my rims ain’t too
Mr. Black President, yo Obama for real
They gotta put your face on the five-thousand dollar bill
Yet at the same time — and discussions about discursive practices aside — there is a strong undercurrent of deeply conservative thought expressed in songs by a wide range of some of the most famous rap artists of all. And it is not just the kind of classical-liberal concerns over government overreach in specific policy areas (narcotics, law enforcement) that one would expect based on the attention rap music has received in the public debate, though there is quite a bit of that. As I will show by analyzing the twenty-one greatest conservative rap songs, selected based on a mix of ideological purity (primarily), musical quality, and popular appeal, all three legs of President Reagan’s “three-legged stool” are represented.
The songs I discuss express support not just for pro-family social values, but also for small government and peace through strength. That said, domestic policy receives more attention than foreign policy, a common feature of most contemporary popular music in the West, and partially for that reason, the relative size of the legs reflect the Republican Party’s primary electorate better than its policy platform.
Without further ado, let the ranking commence: 21 rap songs to inspire the conservative movement in the 21st century.
21. Justin Bieber featuring Busta Rhymes – Drummer Boy (2011)
The first song on the list — ranked this low mostly because of its disregard for the second criterion mentioned earlier, musical quality — is a collaborative effort by teen idol Justin Bieber and past-his-heyday rapper Busta Rhymes. A cover of “The Carol of the Drum,” the classical Christmas song by Katherine Kennicott Davis, the song tells the story of a poor drummer boy who pays tribute to the baby Jesus (“Come they told me, pa rum pa pum pum / A newborn king to see, pa rum pa pum pum.”)
But this is not just an overt endorsement of the Gospel. When Mr. Bieber turns to discussing the policy implications of 1 John 3:17 (“But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”), it is private charity, not government redistribution that he sees as the way forward:
It’s crazy how some people say, say they don’t care,
When there’s people on the street with no food; it’s not fair.
It’s about time for you to act merrily;
It’s about time for you to give to charity.
So I think some of you need to act bold;
Give a can to a drive, let’s change the globe.
This is what “asking the rich to pay their fair share” should look like — not coercion through the tax system, but an appeal to humanity’s moral core.
Read Part 2 here.
Editor’s note: This post originally said John 3:17 instead of 1 John 3:17. It has been fixed (h/t to commenters Allen and Rory Daulton).